Galamsey fire dragons must not dare cool ocean octopuses
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
|How illegal miners take risks to endanger their lives|
Our ancestors used their native wisdom to caution: “Never put your finger tip into the fangs or mouth of a snake that does not bite.”
On Monday, July 31, 2017 the youthful Ghana’s Defence Minister, Hon. Dominic Nitiwul demonstrated the wisdom of King Solomon when he wisely advised residents of galamsey ravaged communities in the country not to provoke soldiers and police officers being assigned to their areas. He gave the warning in the lions’ den at the Burma Camp in Accra where over 400 dreadful looking combined contingents of armed soldiers and police officers had gathered for the official launch of was dubbed as “Operation Vanguard”.
The world-acclaimed heart surgeon and Ghana’s Environment Minister, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng who is also the Head of President Akufo-Addo’s Cabinet body of responsible eminent Ghanaians presented government’s strategy of tackling the galamsey challenges. Earlier on July 10, 2017 the President addressed a galamsey forum of traditional authorities in Accra and announced that plans were afoot to ‘arrest the galamsey menace and preserve our heritage’, as he put it.
In this article, I shall pretend to be seen as one of the Environmental ‘Watch Dogs’ of Ghana, and add my insignificant voice to that of the Defence Minister to humbly appeal to our brothers and sisters in galamsey devastated communities to respect the authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. They should be mindful of the fact that the President has put a rope around the neck of his presidency, and vowed to stop illegal mining in Ghana once and for all. All law-abiding galamsey engineers should heed the Defence Minister’s call and do nothing to provoke the already disturbed peace loving Ghanaian soldiers. Please do not dare them! They not there to brutalize you, but to protect you and the future of your children yet unborn.
“The entire country is behind the 400 soldiers and police officers to be stationed across three regions, namely Ashanti, Eastern and Western,” the Defence Minister reiterated. Then he cautioned repeatedly that no seven-headed-fire-spilling galamsey dragon should provoke the sleeping octopus in the person of the calm, cool and self-disciplined peaceful Ghanaian soldier. Ghanaian soldiers don’t like ‘gidigidi’or ‘basabasa koraaa oooo’! I beg you oooo! But if you attempt to put your finger into their nose, they will not smile at you at all. I know them very well!
Other authorities who spoke for the Commander-in-Chief on that occasion included the Interior Minister, Hon. Ambrose Dery, the Environment Minister as mentioned above, and the Minister for Information Mr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid was there. Many people might not know the role Mr. Abdul-Hamid has been playing behind the scene for the success story of the Media Coalition against galamsey so far.
Above all, the Chief of Dense Staff Major General Akwa and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. David Asante-Apeatu all spoke to the military cum police battalion against galamsey at the Burma Camp Operation Vanguard launch ceremony. They all gingered but urged the contingent to be fair but firm and carry out their duties a professionally as possible. “You are not there to brutalize the people”, they were reminded. “But you reserve the right to defend yourselves with commensurate force if your lives are put at risk”. They were also cautioned not to allow their selfish interest to blind them in collecting mouth-watering gifts from powerful galamsey pay masters.
The fate that befell the late Major Mahama at Denkyira Obuasi is still fresh in Ghanaians’ minds. This is why our brothers and sisters of galamsey kingdoms should not play any tricks with soldiers and police officers on duty in their communities.
The truth is that Government is not saying that unemployed hungry youth should not engage in small-scale mining to feed themselves and their loved ones. NO! No Government of Ghana has ever denied Ghanaian citizens the right to engage in small scale mining. What they have always said, and which Nana Akufo-Addo’s government is also stressing is that, if you are a Ghanaian and wants to engage in small-scale mining, please do so in accordance with the laws of the land. If care is not taken it is only lawlessness that may lead this peaceful country into a ditch one day. “Torfiakwa!” As for foreigners, whether you are from America, Australia, China, Burkina Faso or Nigeria, please keep your contaminated galamsey hands off Ghana’s small-scale extractive industry. Period! The lawd do not permit you to do so.
The law governing operations of small-scale gold miners
The Small-Scale Gold Mining Act, 1989, (PNDC Law, 218) among other things stipulates, …“A person licensed to mine gold under this Act may win, mine and produce gold by aneffective and efficient method and shall in the operations observe good mining practices, health and safety rules, and pay due regard to the protection of the environment.”
This Act was issued as far back as on19th day of April, 1989 and notified in the Gazette on 2nd June, 1989. It has been in operation for nearly 30 years now without “wahala.” Why must it take Government to deploy 400 strong battalion of soldiers and police officers today to enforce this law as if Ghana was going to war against some terrible terrorists from unknown planet? Something must have gone wrong somewhere. And our elders say: “A child, who doesn’t want the mother to sleep, will also not sleep either.
Since April this year when the Media coalition against galamsey advocacy was launched under the leadership of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), the entire media in Ghana have proved beyond doubt that, it is not for nothing that Edmund Burke, a member of the House of Commons of the then Great Britain, in parliamentary debate, described the press as ‘the Fourth Estate of the realm or governance in 1787. Thus, any person or group of persons who joke with the media do so at their own peril. Have you heard the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword?”
Why should Ghana be like any war-torn country?
It appears because some people of modern Ghana have never seen war with their naked eyes before, they seem to wish Ghana could go to war against itself one day. But Ghanaian soldiers who have been participating in UN Peace-keeping operations since 1960s the know the anatomy of wars. So, they have been praying that their country should never experience wars.
It is alleged that a certain group calling itself Association of Small Scale Miners in the Ashanti Region had threatened that “Ghana will be like Ivory Coast if they prevent us from visiting our sites”. It was against that background that Ghana’s Defence Minister issued a stern warning that residents of ravaged galamsey communities should not provoke our brothers and sisters in uniforms when deployed.
In Ghanaian culture, it is believed that when an elderly person is in the house, children are not allowed to engage in deadly fighting that may lead to maiming or killing of one another. The Ga will rhetorically ask: “Onukpa be dzen loo”? The Akan would say: “Opany ni fieho aanaa”? And the Ewe would put it this way: “Tsoo – ametsitsiadeke mele afima oo haaa?”
I have laboured to quote these traditional idiomatic expressions in their respective local dialects, even though the spellings might not be perfect. But the philosophy behind them is for the attention of Ghanaian traditional authorities. I wish to politely refresh their memories that when the President addressed them at the galamsey forum on July 10, 2017, he appealed to them to support him to eliminate galamsey.
Nana opined that, because traditional authorities are the custodians of all lands in Ghana, they have a responsibility to help stop galamsey. As the elders of the nation, traditional authorities cannot sit down unconcerned while the youths in their communities may attempt to confront or provoke soldiers and police officers stationed in the areas of galamsey operations. They should remember Denkyira Obuasi.
Suggestion for consideration
First, all paramount chiefs in galamsey-prone regions should quickly summon their sub-chiefs and inform them about the coming of the anti-galamsey friendly battalions. Then the sub-chiefs in turn, should hold durbars or town hall meetings for their people, especially the youths and counsel them accordingly. They should reason out with them that Ghana Government is not against them. Rather, Government’s actions are meant to protect them and the future of their own children to get good food to eat, potable water to drink and fresh air to breathe.
Thus, when they see the soldiers and police officers coming, they should run away, rather go towards them and make them “aaatuuu” like the savior. They should help them to flush out all illegal miners be they local or foreigners. But for heaven sake, they should not provoke the soldiers and police officers who are their fellow Ghanaians.
The author works with Information Services Department ISD firstname.lastname@example.org